While some Ipswich residents may have some apprehension about the election of a new mayor and councillors in March 2020, Ipswich City Council has put systems and controls in place to provide the community with confidence.
One of the key transformation projects undertaken by the Ipswich City Council over the past year has dealt specifically with the role of elected representatives. Council has adopted a comprehensive councillor guidance package to ensure appropriate governance, conduct and integrity going forward.
Interim Administrator Greg Chemello said the package will see sound governance and good decision-making processes.
“Good governance should be at the core of every action and decision made by council and its councillors,” he said.
Since the dismissal of Ipswich councillors in August 2018, there have also been several amendments to relevant legislation by the state government, including:
• A mandatory Councillor Code of Conduct for all councils is now in place
• An independent external body has been established to assess any complaints about councillors; the Independent Assessor
• Mayors are no longer permitted to direct senior officers, only the CEO
• Mayor and councillors no longer appoint senior officers; the CEO does.
Mr Chemello’s document Ipswich, it’s your council: A Candidate Guide for Ipswich City Council has been prepared within this updated state framework.
The document states that the benefits of good governance included promoting community confidence and trust; encouraging elected members and council officers to be confident, leading to ethical decision-making and better decisions; and helping local government meet its legislative requirements.
“I and the Interim Management Committee are incredibly strong supporters of democracy, which I know may appear odd because this has been a very undemocratic job,” he said, reflecting on his 16 months as administrator at his final full council meeting this month.
“But our job was to get this council back on its feet so that the newly elected representatives will have a solid and ethical platform to bring proper democracy back to this city.”
The candidate guide has a list of do’s and don’ts for would-be councillors, including ensuring residents are referred to council for assistance.
Mr Chemello said there were numerous channels for residents to contact council on operational matters, such as fixing potholes and roads, or seeking grant funding, and councillors should encourage people to do so.
Previous council delegations have also been amended to remove clauses that required divisional councillor endorsement of numerous detailed day-to-day operational functions of council – contrary to the intent of the Local Government Act – that did not meet the community’s expectations for transparent and open decision making and actions.
“Councillors will demonstrate effective leadership when they set a whole-of-city vision and direction for their community, stay out of day-to-day operations of council, balance short and long-term community needs and interests, and foster and maintain positive internal and external relationships.”
He said councillors would have to balance their individual advocacy with the need to work as a team with other councillors to make decisions for the whole community.
“In line with the ongoing reforms to the local government landscape, we will also be helping incoming councillors perform at their best by providing them with a leading induction and professional development program,” he said.
“The changes aren’t only about what councillors can’t do, rather how the organisation can support them to be successful to best serve the residents and ratepayers to keep the city on the right path for the future.”